The science behind beauty mogul Barbara Sturm’s skincare

From purslane and hyaluronic acid to her famous blood cream, Sturm tells us about the ingredients that go into her celebrity-favoured potions

Barbara Sturm's Hyaluronic Serum. Courtesy Barbara Sturm
Powered by automated translation

Skincare savant Dr Barbara Sturm was in Dubai last week to open the second edition of MOE Fashion Live at Mall of the Emirates, where she launched her latest products. The new line "targets women in the Middle East", in that its formula works best on darker skin, while its ingredients are suited for those who suffer from adult acne, hyperpigmentation and sun damage, which Sturm says is the case for many people in this part of the world.

Most famous for creating the "vampire facial", as well as a bespoke cream that uses your own blood, Sturm is a scientist at heart, and believes her carefully sourced and distilled ingredient combinations can treat the breakouts, fine lines and dehydrated skin that make themselves known with age.

Skin specialist Barbara Sturm in Dubai
Skin specialist Barbara Sturm in Dubai

She tells The National how her various potions – which have found favour with the likes of Bella Hadid, Sienna Miller, Victoria Beckham, Kim Kardarshian and Cher – came about, and explains which ingredients made the cut and why. Starting with a small but significant body part, the lips, Sturm says her lip balm was more than three years in the making.

"Most lip balms have mineral oils, which are not good for your skin," she says. "Yet it is very difficult to create one without them, which is why we must have sent 40 samples back and forth, before deciding on the right combination." The combo in question is a mix of vegetable, avocado, coconut, sunflower seeds and lanolin oils, shea and cocoa seed butters, and beeswax. "The result is both hydrating and glossy, with no added fragrance," says Sturm.

The skin around our eyes and on our neck is also particularly sensitive, as it’s thinner and contains less collagen. Eye creams, which are typically more concentrated, are a must-use product for both areas. Sturm’s offering uses two main ingredients that help reduce dark circles, puffiness and fine lines: yeast and purslane. The latter is Sturm’s hero ingredient; an antioxidant herb that’s super-rich in beta carotene and omega-3 fatty acids.

"The amazing part of it is that it's a telomerase activator, which means it keeps our cells alive and not only slows cell mutation, but reverses it and, in turn, the aging process," says Sturm.

Super-ingredient purslane. Courtesy Barbara Sturm
Super-ingredient purslane. Courtesy Barbara Sturm

Another powerful ingredient that's made its way to mainstream skincare is hyaluronic acid. "This is the highest concentrated acid possible; it has both short-chain and long-chain molecules, which means it sits on the surface as well as goes into the deeper layers of our epidermis," explains Sturm.

In addition to the Hyaluronic Serum and Ampoules her brand carries, the ingredient is now widely available from brands such as Too Faced, Glam Glow, Skin Republic and Bea Skin Care.

Aside from trying to slow down the natural aging process, skin scientists are also growing concerned about the damaging effects of pollution, which creates inflammation on and in the body. Serums, creams and sunblock work in tandem to protect the skin when exposed to the elements. ­However, Sturm says we have ­another enemy at our doorstep: mobile phones. "The digital ATV light from our phones is very aggressive, and penetrates the skin deeper than the sun's UVA and UVB rays combined," she says.

It's no wonder then, that according to the NPD market-research group, the anti-pollution-skincare category grew by 30 per cent in the first six months of 2017, while a quick search of the term on portals such as ­Sephora and Cult Beauty throws up hundreds of results. Sturm's Anti-Pollution Drops use cocoa seed extracts and radish root, which double as a shield on the skin's surface.

Barbara Sturm's Anti-pollution Drops 
Barbara Sturm's Anti-pollution Drops 

Finally, Sturm gets to the product that sealed her fame: the MC1 Blood Moisturiser. For those who can afford the Dh5000-plus price tag each jar comes with, this is reportedly the best in bespoke skincare. The cream contains the plasma from your blood, a vial of which is extracted during a visit to one of Sturm's clinics in the US or Europe. The red blood cells are separated from the sample, which leaves behind the platelets and white blood cells. These are combined with (secret) protein-­rich ingredients to form a white, odourless lotion that, if the many user reviews are to be believed, works like magic to make your skin soft, taut, and acne and scab-free.